When it comes to paper waste, recycling is not the solution, it’s just the last resort. One of the secrets to a smaller carbon footprint is to reduce and reuse everything, including all that paper attached to any workplace that requires at least one desk and one printer.
Below we put together a list of small changes you can easily implement in your daily office routine. They require no effort, but we guarantee that the positive impact and results will surprise you.
Add a “Think before printing” Message to Your Email Signature
This is literally a couple of clicks away. There are plenty of messages to pick up from, but you might want to keep it original and come up with your very own version. Who knows, others might share it and you’ll become the next viral story. But seriously, with so many high resolution screens and mobile gadgets around, printing an email message makes less sense than ever.
I’m using this one: “Please consider the environment before printing this email”. Quite serious, but not desperate. I can only hope it starts some ripples that will reach further than expected.
Use Recycled Paper
Replace the bleached white A4-sized sheets with recycled paper. These days they come in various friendly and professional hues. Recycled paper is cheaper too, or it should be. As a rule, make sure all paper used in the office is either FSC approved, sustainable or recycled.
Companies like Eco-craft offer greener products which are more ecologically sound than their standard counterparts. They source from reputable green suppliers and take great care to research the credentials of the papers they use. Most of the paper and cardboard they use are 100% recycled and the majority contain a large proportion of post consumer waste (i.e. old brochures, print outs, etc.). If the occasional tiny fleck or speckle doesn’t mind you, then go for it. You help conserve the Earth’s natural resources and reduce the waste that would end up in the landfill.
No Office Without the Scrap Paper Box
Turn an empty cardboard box into a scrap paper box. This is not the same with those recycling containers where people tend to throw everything that has even 1 % paper in, from sandwich wrappings to packed-with-plastics glossy magazines. All those A4-sized-printed-on-one-side-only that are lying around can have a second life. Display the box somewhere visible and encourage colleagues to put their partially written or failed prints in it. Use the scrap paper for notes, lists, doodling, or wrapping an unfinished burrito. Well, you’ll figure it out.
Quick note: Don’t forget that confidential documents should not go into the scrap paper box, recycling or even garbage bins. For this type of documents consider a secure documents bin or a shredding container.
To make a difference, sometimes it really is as simple as putting a cardboard box by the printing machine, but you can also bring up paper waste in conversations during administrative meetings. Suggestions never hurt anybody, especially when you bring valid arguments regarding waste reduction, saving money, and even the fact that it might look good for the company to display care for the environment.
Use Ink-saving Fonts
They don’t necessarily save paper, but they save ink (and money) and it makes the paper easier to recycle (saves energy too) after it finished its life (its first life!).
Have a look at Ecofont. They came up with a smart piece of software that helps you use less ink. “You print the way you’re used to, with the quality you’re used to – nothing changes. Your wallet wins, the environment wins”. Nothing messy, confusing or expensive. Actually, you can save up to 50% in toner ink according to this independent test. The people behind Ryman Eco or – as their website informs us, “the world’s most beautiful, sustainable font” – pride themselves on being accepted by the design community, and we bet they’d like to get some feedback from the environmental activists too. The font is free and you can give it a try.
If you want to stick to the ‘classics’, you might want to consider the use of fonts that by design use less ink, like Century Gothic or Courier. Whichever option you choose, make sure it ticks legible design, but also eco-friendly.
Making the Case For Greener Ways
With all the above mentioned solutions you’ll save money, but doesn’t it feel great that you are saving so much more than just money? You can pat yourself on the back for making small but significant steps in the right direction.
It’s also good for your CSR score, especially if you already have projects in this area. A discerning public increasingly worried about the state of the environment we all depend on would appreciate your green(er) more considerate ways of leading a business, or just managing your office space. If you can’t decide what type of ink, paper and containers your office uses, make sure you start a conversation with those in charge. Chances are they have no idea what they’re missing.
Fingers crossed! We’re looking forward to hearing more useful best practices and success stories.
Don’t forget that you can start conversations on topics close to your interests on the ethical forum.
Featured image by Jack Royle